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3rd Mar 2024

MEPs back UN call for Guantanamo camp closure

The European Parliament on Thursday (16 February) backed a UN report calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp operated by the US in Cuba.

In a resolution passed at a February session in Strasbourg, a majority of MEPs also demanded that prisoners held in the camp be treated in conformity with international law. The resolution was passed with 80 votes in favour, one against and one abstention.

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"Guantanamo is a scandal. The founding fathers of the United States must be turning in their graves at the constitutional outrage whereby America practises illegal detention, ill-treatment and even torture," said UK liberal MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford.

In the UN report published on Wednesday (15 February) UN experts also said the camp should be closed "without further delay."

"The United States Government should either expeditiously bring all Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial or release them without further delay," the report recommended.

The report also called for an end to "special interrogation techniques" and to stop sending detainees to countries "where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of being tortured" - the so-called practice of rendition.

Approximately 520 people are being held at the Guantanamo base. Most were captured in Afghanistan after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. But so far only a handful of detainees have been tried.

The US immediately dismissed the findings of the report.

"I think what we are seeing is a rehash of allegations that have been made by lawyers representing some of the detainees," Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, was quoted as saying by the New York Times.

"We know that al-Qaeda detainees are trained in trying to disseminate false allegations."

UN secretary general Kofi Annan himself did not fully endorse the findings of the report, saying it was crucial to strike a balance.

"There's a lot in the report, and I cannot say that I necessarily agree with everything," Mr Annan indicated, adding "sooner or later there will be a need to close Guantanamo, and I think it will be up to the government to decide and hopefully to do it as soon as possible."

The 54-page study was compiled by five independent scientists, lawyers and academics over the last 18 months and is largely based on interviews with former detainees and publicised information.

The investigators turned down an invitation to go to Guantanamo Bay when the US said they would not be permitted to talk to individual detainees.

The report will be presented to the UN Commission of Human Rights at its next session in Geneva on 13 March.

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